Data and Human Resources: a close relationship

Friday, April 20, 2018

Data and Human Resources: a close relationship

We live in an era of burnout, information overload and a battle for work-life balance. More and more, we can see the evolution of Human Resources (HR) into not only recruiting, but also well-being. The question is how HR departments and employees can make the best out of technology and data to make time spent at work (which we all know is a lot) much better. 

Companies like Google, are highly aware of the importance of their people and the culture they come to everyday. This change in HR has opened the eyes of many, especially key stakeholders in companies to notice why people should remain a focus, and why investment and constant innovation in this area is relevant. Laszlo Bock, former Senior VP of People Operations and author of Work Rules! once said, “We also use a lot of metrics and numbers to track how things are going. Our goal is to innovate as much on the people side as we do on the product side.” Nowadays, Bock leads Humu, a company he started based on using ML and science to make work life better. 

people working on laptop
Figure 1. Did you know most people spend around 2,000 hours at work per year?

Here is where data usage comes in. Data as we know helps back up decisions, and become the foundation and reason to choose to go one way and not the other. By making data informed choices, the information speaks for itself and the negotiation process is much shorter. Less bantering, more information. To adopt this view of people management, it is clear that the first step is the initial desire to become data driven when it comes to HR. A company will need investment not only with money but also with time and training to execute this vision with transparency and the correct tools. 
There is wide land to cover on this topic, however on this post; we will focus on how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning help with situations such as unwanted situations, frequent questions, employee benefits and turnover. 

After a series of highly publicized events during the past year, Harassment in the workplace has become a widely covered topic but still, much fear that speaking out will cost them their job or exacerbate the situation. SPOT began as a product to disrupt how workplaces handle uncomfortable situations. Through AI and analysis done on their servers, SPOT interacts with users and allow those who have experienced harassment to talk about it, explain what happened and if they have any witnesses. SPOT then stores the information for 30 days. If the user wants a document detailing the incident, it will also compile the responses from the chat into a document that could potentially be sent to HR. workplace. 

Recording negative experiences is not the only thing chatbots can do though. Companies are using chatbots to respond to employee FAQ´s. Through analyzing the questions and having the information in real time, an ongoing problem will be easily detected. For example if several employees mention they don´t know when they have holidays, a communication issue can be detected and immediately solved. 

When it comes to collecting data regarding satisfaction at work, managing style or general feedback, the first thing that comes to mind is a survey. One way to optimize this is to involve ML algorithms. These algorithms identify patterns in the responses and be able to generate insights in a much faster way. If an employee is extremely unhappy, HR has time to reach out and get a better scope of the situation before the person quits. One company focusing on gathering this data is Glint. Their goal is to increase employee engagement with brief surveys and give managers and HR teams a better idea of where to focus their energy, what is truly important for a team or an individual, and will provide guidance to take action.  

All of this being said, AI and ML should not replace the human factor in HR, but work hand in hand with recruiters and managers to save time, produce useful models and allow for mechanical tasks like payroll and reading through resumes to become much more fluid. The outcome of this is more time dedicated to personal contact, more time for hands on problem solving, and a happier and healthier work environment for everyone. 

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